To promote quality online learning, administrators need effective practices to engage many faculty in establishing shared performance expectations. A moderation session is a synchronous meeting in which faculty discuss points of consensus and disagreement about their assessment of a student’s work. A facilitator works to identify the basis for faculty judgments and to articulate performance expectations shared by faculty.
After a moderation session: Thank faculty for participating in the moderation session and seek opportunities to recognize their service through inter-department and university communications. If the web conferencing environment saves poll results, inter-rater reliability statistics can be calculated and communicated to participants for monitoring the quality of outcome assessments over time.
Since 2007, moderation sessions have been conducted periodically with program faculty in support of direct assessments of learning outcomes in bachelor’s and master’s degree capstone courses. Aggregate faculty survey data findings from these sessions are described below. Faculty participants report moderation sessions to be a productive use of their time (>90%) and enthusiasm to participate in future sessions(>95%). Participants also reported that the sessions are most effective when several roles participate, especially subject matter experts, faculty leadership, curriculum specialists, course developers, and assessment specialists. Most participants reported one hour to be sufficient (76%), with the remaining participants preferring more time and no participant preferring less time.
Moderation sessions are also a key step toward developing explicit models of student cognition for learning outcomes that could anchor future assessments and aid in interpreting assessment results (NRC, 2001). While few examples of these models exist in higher education, they promise efficiencies in the development of curriculum and instruction. Moderation sessions support the development of these models by promoting shared performance expectations amongst faculty. Once faculty have explicit and shared performance expectations for learning outcomes, they are better positioned to study and describe a detailed model of learning outcome demonstration and acquisition. In this way, moderation sessions support the Sloan quality pillar of scale by engaging many faculty in building a basis for future curricular and instructional decisions.
Moderation sessions are relatively inexpensive to conduct depending on the communication technologies available at your institution. Most institutions provide access to web-based conferencing tools that can be used to facilitate the collection of faculty assessment data, however such tools are not required. Assessment data could be collected from participants via email by a facilitator for aggregation and presentation. The moderation session itself could also be conducted using free web-based conference call technologies, such as Skype, and free online survey technologies. The indirect costs of having faculty and administrators participating in a moderation session (2-3 hours per participant) should also be considered.
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